I am 64 years of age and have worked at Gatwick Park for many years as a Healthcare and Physiotherapy Assistant. About ten years ago I started to experience stiffness, discomfort and swelling in both knees. I suspected I had Osteoarthritis, sadly my mother was crippled with it. Then; a couple of years ago I tripped over landing on my left kneecap, my bruises recovered but, as time passed, I suffered increasing pain while sitting or trying to sleep. I could not drive or walk any distance; my life was being compromised. Finally following a holiday with two unpleasant flights - there and back with little sleep - it was time to seek help! I saw Mr Rogers, whom I know and have every confidence in. I had MRI’s taken on both knees. The outcome confirmed osteoarthritis, neither knee looked good. Mr Rogers recommended a steroid injection for my left knee, which I happily had, and discussed the potential benefits of an arthroscopy. He recommended a review in three months. Initially the steroid injection reduced the pain and inflammation significantly and I slept!
Two weeks before the review appointment, I experienced a sudden onset of intense pain, which did not alleviate, and I struggled to walk. I had to go off sick. I called Mr Rogers secretary. Following a discussion, it was planned to go ahead with the arthroscopy. This showed that osteophytes had grown, the cartilage had worn away and bone was rubbing on bone. He tidied up my knee and advised me that I was a candidate for a Total Knee Replacement. Given that my other knee was not good, I elected to go ahead.
Preparing for surgery: The hospital offers a ‘Joint School’ led by a physiotherapist. This helps prepare you for what’s ahead and allows you time to ask questions and talk to other patients. A date is also arranged to attend a pre-assessment clinic whereby a nurse goes through your medical history and takes any tests that may be required.
Surgery day: I had a spinal block with sedation, not a general anaesthetic. I was comfortable on waking and my pain relief was well managed. This included ‘ice therapy’ which helped reduce swelling and pain. It’s so important to keep on top of it. Later, when the block had worn off, the physiotherapist assisted me to the loo with a frame. I stood and managed to walk a few steps. Yahoo, no bed pans!
Day one: The next day, the crepe bandage was removed, leaving the surgical dressing only. I was assisted to sit out for breakfast, wash at the sink and get back to bed for ice therapy and a rest! I was tired, but I had a sense of relief as the surgery was over and I was on the road to recovery. Later that morning the physio went through the bed exercises, ensuring that I did them correctly to be effective, and gave me my new best friend; a ’leg lifter’. The physio took me for a little walk; I progressed from the frame to crutches then sat back in the chair for a small lunch, then back to bed with more ice. This process was repeated in the afternoon. As the walks increased, my confidence grew, and with use of the leg lifter, I was independent!
Day two: I repeated Day one’s activities, but for longer periods, which included going up and down stairs in the afternoon. I admit I was fearful of this, but I was fine and was considered safe to go home.
Day three: Breakfast, a ‘shower’, a rest and then home with a fat knee and leg! I make no ‘bones’ about it, the next few weeks were hard and more painful. I had bought six packets of the largest peas available; rarely did I not have a packet on the front and back of my knee. They helped me get to the next dose of pain relief in the early days.
I adopted a daily routine, helped by my husband. Luckily, he’s an excellent cook - a good diet is paramount, especially when you’re not hungry. A body won’t heal or move well on a poor diet. In the early days, music, T.V, family and some wonderful friends were my solace. Reading was out I could not concentrate. Two weeks later, the clips were removed and I was healing well. With further outpatient physiotherapy and by continuing my routine at home of exercises and increasing my walking at home, I was moving on slowly. Later I accessed a gym and a pool to enhance my recovery, this helped me mentally too. I returned to work after four months with a phased return as my job requires me being on my feet. It was tough initially; my knee became sorer again, my muscles ached, and my hamstrings were tight, lots of ice and continued analgesia. Keeping up with the exercises, having returned to work, was hard, but if I didn’t exercise, my knee would be much sorer and stiffer. I wanted a flexible functional knee for myself, not waste Mr Rogers surgical skills and that of everyone else involved. I often wondered if my right knee would cope with the recovery, fortunately, it has held its own.
I always knew well-being was a strong part of recovery. I needed to put it into practice and try to be a ‘patient’ patient, to help myself and those around me. The less stressed I could be, the better it would be for everyone – it would help my muscles relax which would reduce pain levels. This is not always achievable when you’re sleep deprived and in pain – a different pain though as you’re getting better. I started to look at my recovery in terms of months rather than weeks, as it was easier to see my progress. I tried to make realistic goals, everyone’s goals will be different according to their starting point, age, fitness and any other issues. Honestly, for me, I turned the corner after about nine months - some are quicker, some are slower, but it can take up to two years.
At some stage it will be repeated on my right knee. Given that one is fixed now, the other should be easier. My left knee still gets stiff and swells at little if I have overdone it but I am pain free and getting stronger. I can kneel on it, with kneeling pads for short periods and I have very good flexion. It is so much better than before surgery. I am very thankful to be back living my life.